Television Reviews

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Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Street: 06.10
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is an adventure through our universe—past, present and future with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson leading the way. Tyson puts everything in layman’s terms so you don’t need a Master’s degree to understand the immensity of the universe. The show feels like a college lecture, but with a good score and really pretty special effects—there’s no denying that the show is gorgeous. The coolest thing about Cosmos is they’ve boiled down 13.8 billion years to a calendar year—the Cosmic Calendar. You can check it out in depth on the Blu-ray set, though it’s not as awesome as it sounds. It’s cool looking, but there’s nothing new here, it’s just clips from episodes. The show touches on three main points: our world’s origins, what and how we learned about the world around us and lastly, what we know about the universe so far. There’s a lot to cover with each subject, and that spans the 13 episode mini-series. Besides the calendar, there are a few extra features: A nod to Carl Sagan, a look at the Cosmos series as a whole, a few snippets from Cosmos at Comic-Con 2013, and a commentary on the first episode. – Ashley Lippert
The Killing: The Complete Third Season
20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Street: 06.03
The Killing is a very underrated series in the suspense/crime genre—so underrated that AMC dropped the show after this season. Lucky for TV junkies like myself, Netflix picked The Killing up and pumped out another season. Season 3 starts about a year after the Rosie Larsen Case (seasons 1 & 2). We find Linden has left the police department and is now working in a public works department, Holder is still working homicides but has lost the Eminem look in favor of a suit. Young girls start to go missing, and this brings Linden back to the force with Holder in tow. Season 3 is packed with the same dark, whodunnit storyline as the previous two seasons, with enough twists to keep you guessing until the very last episode. This season has teenage street kids, a death row inmate and more chain smoking. When I was given the DVD box set, the packaging looked unfinished, as if it were an advance copy. The menus and discs look the same, but this is the final product for consumers. No extras, no behind-the-scenes and not even subtitle options.  Now that Netflix has taken over the show, you can stream every episode from each of the 4 seasons. With the third season box set having about the same options as a bootlegged DVD, it is probably in your best interests to save the $24 and keep all 4 seasons in your Netflix queue. Hopefully season 4 will have nothing to do with dead teenage hookers and both Linden and Holder will finally be able to quit smoking for good. ¬–Granato
The New Normal
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Street: 05.13
Bryan Collins (Andrew Rannels) seems to have it all. He has a fantastic job as a producer on a hit show and is in a great relationship with Dr. David Murray (Justin Bartha).  As he’s out shopping, he’s struck with an idea as he passes an adorable, little baby in a stroller. Kids! Of course! That’s what’s missing! Bryan and David discuss the idea, and decide to use a surrogate. In comes Goldie Clemmons (Georgia King) with her quirky, lovable daughter Shania (Bebe Woods). Goldie is on a mission of independence. She’s breaking away from Shania’s lame-ass father, knowing that there has to be something better out there. Goldie’s grandmother Jane (Ellen Barkin) is my favorite part of the show—she says exactly what’s on her mind, even if it’s terrible, which is usually the case. She balances out the sweetness of the show, along with Rocky (NeNe Leakes), Bryan’s assistant producer. The character development is really well done, and I laughed and cried with these people. There aren’t any special features on the set, which is a bit of a let-down, but the show is worth the money. –Ashley Lippert
Warner Bros.
Street: 07.22
For devotees of Ray Kurzweil and his “singularity theory,” Transcendence and its set of blu-ray bonus features will likely get some decent mileage in your home theaters.  Folks looking for character development and internal consistency, however, might be disappointed.  Transcendence is the story of Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), an expert in the field of artificial intelligence, who sustains a terminal gunshot wound—courtesy of anti-technology terrorists—and has his consciousness uploaded into a computer.  The project is headed by Caster’s wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall, Hollywood’s go-to girl for intelligent female scientists), whose desire to resurrect her husband seems to blind her to the consequences of merging man with machine.  Along the way, they butt heads with their more ethical colleagues (Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman), an FBI agent (a woefully underused Cillian Murphy), and a terrorist (Kate Mara).  It’s no surprise that director Wally Pfister has a strong background in cinematography (he was Director of Photography on all three of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films).  There are some truly beautiful shots peppered throughout the narrative (courtesy of Jess Hall), and they truly take advantage of the blu-ray format.  The disc’s special features include two documentary featurettes, two short documentaries about the future of artificial intelligence, along with three viral marketing videos that were used to promote the film. –Alex Springer
True Detective: The Complete First Season
HBO Home Entertainment
Street: 06.10
I’ve never seen a show gather buzz as quickly and ferociously as True Detective did. The 8-episode series practically exploded the Internet with conspiracies, fan art, and worshipful Tumblr posts. It was great to re-live the horror on DVD, to remember why I fell in love with nihilistic atheist Rust Cohle, to enjoy the hauntingly gorgeous backdrops of the Louisiana bayou and the pagan murders therein, and to once again fume at writer Nic Pizzolatto’s inability to carry his hefty allusions into a decent third act—but I digress. The DVD series has some decent extras, including “Inside the Episode” commentaries with Pizzolatto and phenom director Cary Fukunaga, wherein they dissect each episode’s plot points and visuals for the viewer, and a deleted scene of a beautiful but meaningless montage of aerial landscapes. A longer “Making of” feature at series’ end provides some interesting facts, and proves my sneaking suspicion that this was a mediocre writer propped up by a team of people far more talented and passionate than he. Interviews with the cast, including extended talks with stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, are pretty boring in that typical studio-propaganda way. Fans of the show will enjoy it, so long as they don’t expect any of the loose ends left by Pizzolatto to be tied up by the extra features. –Megan Kennedy
Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley
Street: 05.20
HBO Home Entertainment
Whoopi Goldberg might be one the weirdest celebrities to walk the earth.  Her role in Ghost made me love her forever, but her fugly explanation of “rape-rape” on The View regarding Roman Polanski made me loathe her forever, so I feel like I’m stuck in some vortex of mixed emotions.  Life is strange sometimes … especially when we consider Goldberg’s directorial debut, a documentary celebrating the life of comic Jackie “Moms” Mabley, which is, in a word, touching. Mabley’s career spanned from the vaudevillian years of the 1920s clear through to the key-partying ‘70s, a feat that hardly any comedian can speak of, let alone a black, toothless Southern woman who favored muumuus and fishing hats, just ‘cuz.  Although her voice was evocative of an emu’s death rattle buried under a lake of tar, it managed to propel her very deep sense of humanity in her comedy to the spotlight, imparting worn-in wisdom to the civil rights movement that was enveloping the country.  Some folks might find her rat-a-tat-tat stage presence a bit dated, but I fell in love with her instantly.  Recommended! –Ashlee Mason